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Monday, January 11, 2010

Cooks, barbers and Australians

For an emerging international player, the Ministry of External Affairs should have an iconic status. In the past weeks, the MEA has, unfortunately, acquired an image of frivolity with its junior Minister constantly getting into scrapes over his Twitter-ing ways and the senior Minister being mocked for being more preoccupied with his appearance than his charge. The perceptions may well be unfair but they have contributed to an overall feeling that South Block could do with an injection of gravitas.


There are times, however, when flippancy may serve an unwitting purpose. Last week, SM Krishna made a telling comment on Australia’s education industry and what he thought was Indian gullibility: “One can understand students going there (Australia) at the university level, at the IIT level or at the level of some other institution of excellence. When I went there, I was shocked to see so many students in courses they don’t need to go to Australia for — such as learning hair-styling or doing facials.”


Krishna needs to be complimented on his belated discovery that the 66,000 Indians who went to Australia last year on student visas aren’t exactly interested in rocket science and that they are unlikely to be short-listed in future for the Nobel Prize. Australia has cleverly used its education industry for two strategic ends. First, to earn itself a whopping Au$ 15 billion, of which the largest share comes from India, each year; and, second, to use bucket shops (masquerading as institutes of ‘higher education’) as a primary point of immigration. The Minister would have been surprised to learn that hair-styling, which he ironically looks down on, and commercial cookery were two of the recognised vocations for converting student visas into residence permits. Australians, it would seem, were short of barbers (or hair stylists if you prefer) and cooks (or chefs if you so like) and were glad to facilitate their entry into the country. The country had the additional satisfaction of knowing that the bulk of these preferred immigrants have paid for the privilege of meeting the manpower shortage.


Australia must be congratulated for evolving a unique, revenue-generating immigration model. It is qualitatively different from that of the US which doles out generous scholarships to the best and the brightest students from India and allures them into the American dream. The US has believed that a particular type of immigrant enhances the creative and competitive thrust of its economy; Australia has used education to cope with basic labour shortages — and not merely in hair-dressing saloons and restaurants. What has made Australia attractive to India’s less academically-inclined students is the fact that studies are at a serious discount. The students pay a whopping fee to an institute and then devote themselves to earning money driving taxis or working as shop attendants in retail establishments, particularly those that are open late into the night. Australian universities, an unnamed academic is quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald, “used to be a place of learning; now they are a place of earning.”


I don’t know why Australia persists with the fiction of issuing student visas: These are short-term work visas with a steep entry fee.
This is not to mention that all Australian education is an eye-wash. There are well-regarded universities in the country, maybe even in Melbourne too. The question is: How many of the one lakh plus Indian students are enrolled in them?


It is pertinent to point out the grim reality of what passes for education, particularly in a city such as Melbourne, to disabuse ourselves of the notion that Indian ‘students’ are being targeted by Australians. It is not a town versus gown clash that has made Indians the favourite whipping boys of every disgruntled lout emerging from a pub. Those who are being targeted are Indian workers, the reserve army of potential immigrants.


This doesn’t make the attacks any less heinous. If Australians are repelled by the growth of Indian ghettos in the suburbs of Melbourne and disgusted by the curry smells and Hindi film songs, they must realise that it is a problem of their own creation. It is they who wanted cheap labour and there is a social price to be paid for this luxury.


There is a social problem that is affecting Melbourne and whether Australia likes it or not, it has a strong racial dimension. The crime statistics suggest that Indians are 2.5 times more vulnerable to attacks than others in Melbourne, and yet Australian authorities pretend that crime is colour-blind. The argument is patently disingenuous.


Australia won’t lose brownie points if it honestly admits that the State of Victoria has a serious problem of race-related crimes. It is not going to take away from the fact that the country has travelled a long way from the ‘Whites only’ immigration policy it pursued until the 1960s. Nor will India question the right of Australia to cut down student visas in future because MEA has already recognised that most of the courses aren’t worth spending hard-earned money on. But Australia cannot expect India to sit by idly as its citizens are set upon by goons and harassed and even killed.


The Ku Klux Klan analogy of an Indian tabloid may be an exaggeration (and it certainly wasn’t very funny) but the response to Indian shrillness is not stone-faced Australian denial. Nor does it lie in shrill Australian indignation over the sheer effrontery of India calling someone else racist.


The point which Australia has recognised insufficiently, and which Indians don’t seem to have recognised at all, is that India means something quite different to what it meant 30 years ago. If the race attacks don’t cease, it would be worth the MEA’s while to make the travel advisory more stringent and, as a final resort, advise the Reserve Bank of India to stop all fresh money remittances to Australia for ‘education’ purposes.

Sunday Pioneer, January 10, 2010

17 comments:

uthamanarayanan said...

People who go to Australia , I understand , don't go for any qualifications mainly but to get permanent residency , otherwise so huge a population need not go there for studies.
Here except good public schools ,all round personalities are not developed but students are trained as memorizing machines who could repeat the answers either in the papers or orally.
Then it becomes a shock to those best students who land in corporate world where presentation skills take an upper hand after the initial grounding in the technical or skills level by the individual companies.
Only then, and then only these students get stuck and dismayed over the fact that only a few score over the rest on language , that is English-- so although late , they try to go abroad especially English speaking countries where they feel they could polish their English, for a course is needed.
These kind of courses are offered where not much of knowledge or concentration is needed; so bakery making,hair styling,cooking etc., They will come to the reality after two years , mere going abroad to an English speaking world in no way improve their language efficiency unless practiced and sincerely attempted.
Punjabi's basic instinct seems to be to go abroad by any means to any job.
Besides in India still people who are of the opinion that anything from abroad is superior to India.
All these contribute to the exodus of students to universities in a country which is easily accessible and English speaking also.

Anonymous said...

Sheer overreaction of hubris filled Indians. What ism is it that causes ragging , molestation , corruption and so on WITHIN merabharathmahaan India ?

Regarding professions like that of beauticians. Yes , there IS a hell of a lot of difference between being given a facial, haircut etc by a qualified Aesthetician abroad and any Indian within India. Forget high profile Jamuna Pais & Shahnaz Hussains who only hemamalinis & affluent celebs can afford.

For middle class , there are ill qualified ,halfbaked people with shoddy standards and virtually no accountability.And rancid or fake cosmetics. Don't we excel in that??

Galling temerity we have in finger pointing at the West((

Anonymous said...

Sheer overreaction of hubris filled Indians. What ism is it that causes ragging , molestation , corruption and so on WITHIN merabharathmahaan India ?

Regarding professions like that of beauticians. Yes , there IS a hell of a lot of difference between being given a facial, haircut etc by a qualified Aesthetician abroad and any Indian within India. Forget high profile Jamuna Pais & Shahnaz Hussains who only hemamalinis & affluent celebs can afford.

For middle class , there are ill qualified ,halfbaked people with shoddy standards and virtually no accountability.And rancid or fake cosmetics. Don't we excel in that??

Galling temerity we have in finger pointing at the West((

No Mist said...

let us hope that our home grown capitalists like Ambani can fast track their education business ... this will help all those who want to study as well as those who just want to become 'hairstylists' .. i am sure Ambani/Tata/Birla can provide better hairstyling courses as well as chemical engineering ones.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the double posting.

What is so infra dig about being a cook or a barber ? Did not we have 'dignity of labour' dinned into us from childhood ? I am a housewife (pc word homemaker).Not a day passes without my sending heartfelt thanks to those who invented washing machines etc thus liberating me from maidservant mafia (pc word domestic help).

Thanks to Internet , help in the form of useful suggestions , good insights are available at the click of a mouse. Indians seldom reach out. Whereas perfect strangers , from America to Australia ( read non indians) do reach out offering precious advice for FREE.

It is time we get over this frog in the well mentality. We deserve to be humbled.

Anonymous said...

Am no longer awestruck by Indian IITians. Might be skilled in their fields of specialization but alas lacking in commonsense which is " not so common ". Not only do they genuflect before aol Ravishankars to several dubious avatards but also muzzle free speech , critical thinking all in the name of (sic) " saving hindooism , marketing of soft brand of hindutva ".

Anonymous said...

One of the Priests of a well known ancient Temple in Tamil Nadu , proficient in four Vedas ( a Chaturvedi) recently spent a few months in Australia.

On returning he beamed with gratification & said:-

" I saw plenty of Rudraaksha Trees , chanted so many Vedic Mantras including Gayatri to my heart's content.... ". He was full of glowing reports about Australia & Australians.

He went with his customary tuft , sacred thread , forehead emblazoned with holy ash & returned the same. He was not ridiculed or "targetted" by the (sic) " racist " Whites !

Pratik Khadloya said...

This is Indias neo-colonialism! We will flood all the well off countries with our countrymen. The only export that we have "man-power".

Anonymous said...

Indian media has done infinite harm to Indians by bringing the issue of racism in all this. It had made life hell for Indians in the contry. Now it has gone so far to make it hell for Indians who are peacefully settled in Australia or anywhere else outside.
What can you do by the way even if racism is involved??? When your own country allows its innocents to be slaughtered by terrorists for minority votes. Respect can never be got by howling, shouting, screaming, it comes by actions, how you can make your own country a proud one, a developed one..

Anonymous said...

PK writes " We will flood all the ....... our countrymen.... "man-power".

Such futuristic moustache twirling betrays your ignorance of stark realities. Instead of strutting about smug based on self congratulatory newsreports, travel around & judge for yourself stripping yourself of all prejudices including religious ones.

The key word is ' gravitas '. Quantity is of no consequence. I attended a cultural programme presented by Indians in a foreign university.They were " showcasing India " for the native Whites.

It was appalling. Replete with jejune bollywood song & dance item numbers. Which were ultra audaciously presented as " India's great kathakali , bharathanatyam...". The burlesque relief came from the elderly silver haired Indian Head of the Dept crooning another bollywood number.

Where the Whites patiently endured , it was unmitigated torture for me. A post doctorate Indian student from southern India came up with a characteristically vacuous question :-

" How do you manage your time here with no sun tv "?

Ajay said...

Why to comment on Australian attacks when even in India; bihari's are attacked by Marathi's. This is a home grown phenomenn which is finding place abroad.

Anonymous said...

Living a few months in the West (America or Australia whatever) does SOMEthing to you indeed!

I don't have the qualifications , age , money etc to settle down there. Nevertheless , it was so refreshing to find for the first time everyone is looked upon as a 'person'. No gender or age biases. No native White ridicules you for your faux pas or broken English. It is the clannish NRI relatives & desis wrestling with identity crisis who blight your stay.

Political correctness permeates everything Indians like me cannot say much. The Whites are very polite and helpful. The facilities they have for senior citizens to children show how much they CARE. No wonder , even young toddlers carry themselves with aplomb.

Whereas , yours truly always looks apologetic for everything including existing. Our very upbringing is fundamentally flawed , being constantly knocked down & bludgeoned.( Spare me hindudtvavadis a lecture about Vedic past, long gone)

It is us the southasians (yes indians like to call themselves that) who are illmannered , rude , uncouth and never follow rules. Lying has become our second nature.

Anonymous-fan said...

Anonymous has got some real good comments here. Whoever u are, please write a blog and send us a link! "futuristic moustache twirling" LOL! First time I've heard that phrase! Potential for becoming a new internet meme I must say. You, madam, are full of win!

Anonymous said...

Thank you Anonymous-fan for your kind words.

Actually I owe a BIG 'thank you very much' to Sri.Swapan Dasgupta for letting me speak my mind without censoring.

Sorry , can't open a blog. Am not computer savvy at all. But no regrets. Happy for access to good quality writings of Swapan Dasgupta , Chandan Mitra , Kanchan Gupta and the like.

Fountain Head said...

I couldnt understand MEA's stand to go mute on these incidents in return for Australia helping us getting in to APEC grouping & quietly disbursing ex gratia to families of the victims.Also the ignorance shown by Aussie authorities to prevent these attacks and punish the culprints clearly shows vested interest..Imagine it happening in India to a bunch of foreigners, it would be a national calamity where the west would have condemned.

Anonymous said...

Narrating what I went through. Judge for yourself.

After completing CBSE from Indian School in a Gulf country , I was bludgeoned on my head by hiiighhhly qualified fellow Indians to send my child X to a college in India with cliched diatribe " west-is-bad-india only great-patriotic-serve your motherland so cheap..".

What followed was an unalloyed nightmare. Just because we belong to so called forward community , despite X's qualifying percentages both of us were subjected to a traumatising Inquisition that I don't want to write in detail. No one would believe.

I was asked to pay a hefty donation along with lots of cameras , watches etc etc made in Japan. The landladylord (with own houses , farmlands , cars , scooters , chunky jewellery etc) took twice the amount of rent simply because we were from Gulf. Periodically cut off water supply.Pesky inquisitive neighbours would simply barge in to gaze around ,tittle tattle , requesting me to shove in cauldrons of idli/dosa batter in my fridge or borrow yoghurt etc.

Just because roses bloomed in a pot which I had nursed , the landlord said:

" I am an engineer; this verandah cannot bear the weight of your plant. You think you are King of Babylon...?"

Landlady decreed:
" In this area you should not wear salwarkameez...only saree....."

I realised inordinately late what a lot of money & peace I was losing with zilch in return.
Not only was the faculty substandard , periodically classes were suspended , premises leased to film rape & cavorting scenes of south indian movies. The proverbial straw came in the form of AOL Ravishankar making it compulsory for all to hyperventilate his patented skriya.

I was the one who literally yanked X away asking to quit for good.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous-fan,

Your kind words are locked up in my mind. I savour them daily with my coffee:))